By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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“[Making it to state is] nothing new to them, last year was one of the only years they haven’t made it in some time, and we can only go in with one mindset and that’s to win,” first-year Red Devils coach Tony McCaulley said.
And to make sure they arrived there safely, both the Neah Bay boys and girls teams left for Spokane on Tuesday to avoid treacherous driving conditions on Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.
The two squads spent Tuesday night in Ellensburg and were able to set up a practice at Central Washington University before heading off Wednesday morning for practices at Whitworth College and film preparations in Spokane.
McCaulley, also head coach of the Neah Bay football team, is no stranger to state tournament play.
He’s overseen the team’s march to three straight 1B championship games, winning two of them.
This should come in handy in setting a routine leading up to today’s state tournament opener against the Tekoa-Oakesdale Nighthawks.
“I think its an advantage because I’ve been through it a lot and I hope that some of the things we have done in football transfers well to girls basketball,” McCaulley said.
“It’s all I know to do, so we will keep at it.”
McCaulley was able to round up film on Tekoa-Oakesdale (20-4), a team that stunned previously undefeated Sunnyside Christian 50-44 to earn its place at the state tourney table.
McCaulley believes his team has their work cut out for themselves against the Nighthawks.
“This is a real good team, they rebound well, they box out and screen well and they are patient and run their offense in the halfcourt,” McCaulley said.
“They can give you any kind of look on defense — straight man-to-man, all sorts of zones.”
Three of Tekoa-Oakesdale’s four losses are to top-ranked Colton, which has won the last five 1B state championships.
The Nighthawks are tall and lengthy, headed up by a pair of 6-footers, senior post Mattie Jo Johnson and junior Olivia Pakootas.
“From the little bit of film I’ve seen, the big girls dominate a bit and they have a 5-foot-4 point guard that is really quick and has the same kind of skills as Mount Vernon Christian’s point,” McCaulley said.
Other players to watch for Tekoa-Oakesdale are junior forward Kim Groom and freshman forward Jacey Johnson.
McCaulley is confident his team can advance to the semifinals, so long as they “play aggressive defense, avoid turnovers, box those big girls out and take away second-chance opportunities.”
The Red Devils tip off at 3:45 p.m. today at the Spokane Arena.